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10 hacks that made headlines

Joan Goodchild | May 16, 2012
Ten infamous social engineers -- con men who exploited human weaknesses rather than technical vulnerabilities.

Anonymous hacks HB Gary

In early 2011, Antisec group Anonymous got angry when Aaron Barr, at the time the CEO of HB Gary Federal, alluded to plans to reveal the identities of several Anonymous members at the Security B-Sides conference. In retaliation, the group compromised the systems of both HBGary Federal and sister firm HB Gary Inc. Anonymous then copied and made public thousands of private HBGary documents, including emails.

In one of the first events to really bring "hacktivism" to the attention of the mainstream press, it was reported that some of the documents stolen by Anonymous revealed HBGary Federal was working with Bank of America to respond to Wikileaks' planned release of BOA internal documents. The HBGary documents detailed some planned shady tactics, including launching a "dirty tricks" campaign against Wikileaks and disrupting a reporter who was assumed to be sympathetic to Wikileaks.

Lulzsec hacks Sony

An offshoot of Anonymous, hacktivist group Lulzsec in June 2011 hacked into Sony Pictures via SQL Injection attack and stole data that included names, passwords, e-mail and home addresses of thousands of customers.

Lulzsec, saying the attack was retaliation for Sony's legal action against hacker George Hotz for jailbreaking into the PlayStation 3, claimed to have compromised over one million accounts. Sony has claimed the number of compromised accounts was much lower.

Founding Lulzec member Sabu (real name Hector Xavier Monsegur) was arrested by federal agents in June 2011 and agreed to become an FBI informant, providing the FBI with details that lead to the arrest of five other "hacktivists" associated with the groups Anonymous, Lulzsec and Antisec. Sabu himself eventually plead guilty to criminal charges, including multiple counts of conspiracy to engage in computer hacking and is awaiting sentencing.

News of the World hacking scandal

Employees of British paper News of the World were found to have hacked into the phones of celebrities, politicians and even murder victims in pursuit of stories for the tabloid.

In an investigation that dated back to 2002, it was eventually revealed that reporters, as well as private investigators hired by the paper, had hacked into the voicemail accounts of celebrities such as model Elle McPherson and actress Sienna Miller, as well as members of the British Royal Family. In one instance, a PI working for the paper had tampered with official police evidence by listening to and inadvertently deleting the voicemails of murdered school girl Milly Dowler.

The 168-year-old paper was eventually shuttered in the wake of the scandal.


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